SEAS Cup Skipper's Choice #1

As the skippers met on the dock, the forecast and conditions seemed to foretell of an inauspicious beginning to the 2023 SEAS cup races for SEAS.  The forecast called for 5 knots of wind in Stephen's Passage, building to a possible 10 knots in the afternoon.  As all Juneau sailors know, this usually means it MIGHT blow 5 at some point during the day. 

Indeed, motoring down Gastineau Channel toward the Marmion Island starting point for the backside of Douglas race, the forecast seemed accurate.  The channel was grease.  It was flat calm, with teeny-tiny ripples near Marmion, but no indication of better breeze.

Surprise, High Noon, and Haiku met at the starting line at 10:00, with a slightly delayed start time of 10:10, the wind built enough that the boats had steerage during the pre-start.  It seemed they would have enough speed to overcome the flood and escape the channel.  Hoping to get past Marmion into the Stephen's passage flood for some current help, the boats ghosted through the start with their largest genoas up and crews on the low side.

Hoping to avoid the Marmion current turbulence, Haiku took a wider start and the early lead, and was able to get up a spinnaker earlier than the other boats.  However, the crew of Haiku was not treated to the close humpback swimming between High Noon and Surprise.  Encouraged by the delighted squealsthe whale decided to get a closer look, eventually diving right under Surprise's keel, leaving just the helm and spinnaker trimmer engaged in the race.

The wind, no longer a light 3 or 4, had built to 8 or 9 and Haiku and Surprise took advantage and ran straight toward Pt. Hilda under full spinnaker, running at 5 to 6 knots.  High Noon, carrying an asymmetrical spinnaker, reached over to Admiralty, and was able to find some advantageous current near Stink Creek.

Haiku was the first to reach the leeward mark, rounded, switched back to the genoa, for the beat home.  High Noon and Surprise close behind.  

High Noon followed closely in Haiku's wake for most of the return leg, with Surprise clear behind, but in clean air.  As the boats approached Green's Cove, Haiku became nervous about the low VMG towards the finish and tacked early back toward Douglas.  High Noon stayed on the Admiralty side, and when Haiku realized that the current against Douglas was disadvantageous it was too late.  High Noon crossed in front of Haiku for the first time in the race, with less than 1nm to go.

As the two boats approached Marmion, Haiku attempted to go in to Marmion closer than High Noon.   The strategy seemed to work, and Haiku was steadily gaining, however, it was too late. High Noon crossed the line less than a minute before Haiku after 5 hours of racing.

Surprise made a similar mistake of going too close into Douglas, and suffered the same adverse current that Haiku.  However, they battled back, and were able to finish just 30 minutes after Haiku.

The corrected results were:

  1. Haiku
  2. Surprise
  3. High Noon